Views & Reviews Between the Lines

A whistleblower’s tale

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e5426 (Published 10 August 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5426
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Parents are inclined to believe that a child’s failure in exams condemns him or her to a life of poverty and frustration. They might console themselves with the case of Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), the great Norwegian playwright. He took the entrance exams to medical school while working as an apothecary’s apprentice—but failed them. Would we have heard of him had he passed? This is the very question that is often asked of Hitler and the Viennese art academy.

Ibsen retained his interest in medicine throughout his life, however. A doctor, Thomas Stockmann, is the protagonist of the drama An Enemy of the People. Written in 1882, it is based in part on …

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